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In Genesis 3 the Hebrew word 'nachash' meaning the shining one has been rendered 'snake' or 'serpent'. What possible ground is there for such renditions?

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    What is your grounds for interpreting nachash as "shining one"? Actually I'm not aware of any traditions that interpret this Hebrew term other than snake/serpent!
    – bach
    Apr 29, 2020 at 2:12

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The notion that נָחָשׁ (nachash) is related to the idea of “shining” is not unheard of.

In The Companion Bible, E. W. Bullinger wrote the following,1

Bullinger, Ethelbert William. The Companion Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999. Appendix 19, p. 24 of Appendix.

However, the Jewish scholars who produced the LXX certainly understood נָחָשׁ as being a serpent, as they translated it into Greek as ὄφις. This is further confirmed by the New Testament that translated it likewise.

2 Corinthians 11:3
3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Γʹ φοβοῦμαι δὲ μή πως, ὡς ὁ ὄφις ἐξηπάτησεν Εὕαν ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτοῦ, φθαρῇ τὰ νοήματα ὑμῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἁπλότητος [καὶ τῆς ἁγνότητος] τῆς εἰς τὸν Χριστόν.
Novum Testamentum Graece. Ed. Aland, Barbara, et al. 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

Footnotes

        1 Appendix 19 (p. 24 of the Appendix)

References

Bullinger, Ethelbert William. The Companion Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999.

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    It's an interesting idea, but I can't find this definition in any lexicon. It seems to be his guess of the etymological meaning behind the words נחש, snake, and נחשת, copper. Apr 29, 2020 at 5:17
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Translators render nachash (from the root n-ch-sh) as "serpent" because it's the most plain and simple understanding. There's no indication in the text that it should translated as anything else, but you're correct to associate shining with nachash, although this understanding could be more refined.

Hebrew root n-ch-sh forms and definitions (from The Unseen Realm):

  1. nachash (noun) "snake; serpent" (Genesis 3:1).
  2. nochesh (verb) "to use divination, give omens" (e.g. Genesis 3:4-5).
  3. nachash (adjective) "bronze, brazen" (1 Chronicles 4:12, referring to Ir-Nachash "the city of copper/bronze (smiths)" > nechosheth "bronze; copper", can be applied to divinities/angels [Daniel 10:6]).

It's possible the informed reader should think of all three meanings when reading Genesis in Hebrew, not only one at the expense of others.

Sources: The Unseen Realm (Heiser, 87)

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The Hebrew word נָחָשׁ, nachash, indeed means snake or serpent. You can find it here for example: https://archive.org/details/BDBHebrewLexicon/page/n1275/mode/2up. It is the last entry on the bottom right at 6058 and with Strong's number 5175.

Perhaps you are thinking of Isaiah 14:12 where the English "shining one" or the Latin "lucifer" translate the Hebrew word הֵילֵל, helel. (You can find the word here: https://archive.org/details/BDBHebrewLexicon/page/n499/mode/2up. It is the second entry on the top right page at 2407 and with Strong's number 1966.)

Some interpreters of the Bible have linked this verse with Ezekiel 28:13 where the prophet describes someone as covered with precious stones in Eden and have argued that this figure is the snake in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Thus they conclude that the identity of the shining one (the helel) in Isaiah 14:12 is the snake (the nachash) in Genesis 3.

There are problems with this interpretation. The main issue is that the context in each of these prophetic passages tells us precisely about whom the prophet is speaking and it is not the snake in either. Isa 14:4 specifically states that the proverb (mashal) is against the king of Babylon, and likewise in Ezek 28:12 the lamentation (qinah) is against the king of Tyre.

For more information on the interpretation of these passages check out these short online articles by Craig Keener: http://www.craigkeener.com/does-isaiah-1412-14-refer-to-lucifers-fall-from-heaven/; and http://www.craigkeener.com/does-ezekiel-2812-14-refer-to-the-devil/.

Nevertheless, nachash does not mean "shining one". It means "snake/serpent". "Shining one" is the meaning of helel.

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  • I would say while Isaiah and Ezekiel both speak of the kings of Bablylon and Tyre the text obviously segues into someone who not a mere human king. The details could not match a human king, but must speak of a power behind those human kings.
    – wcochran
    Feb 23, 2022 at 5:06
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The fact that we already know that the nachash of Eden in Genesis 3 is Lucifer, the shining angel expelled from God's presence, who seduced Eve into rebelling, gives credence to Dr. Heiser's argument that it was not from the animal kingdom, but a highly intelligent spirit being whose objective it was to destroy humanity. Lucifer's beauty and brilliance is documented in the Scriptures, and by reason it must be considered that Eve would have been far more attracted to a stunningly beautiful angelic being that Lucifer is described to be by the prophets, as opposed to a snake. The argument that the translation of nachash as snake is carried over into the New Testament can simply mean that no writer chose to clarify what the nachash of Gen 3 actually was. The the root word for nachash, also used for the luminous metals of copper and brass, certainly could be used to describe the luminous one, Lucifer. I think that Dr Heiser got it right.

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    Mar 24, 2022 at 13:59
  • Hi Jan, welcome to the site. This looks like the start of a great answer--could you add some citations and/or the Biblical passages that support this view. Thanks for contributing! Mar 25, 2022 at 4:04
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The bronze/copper link from the "unseen realm" you posted seems really really really far removed from truth, in point 3 in your post.

in dan10:6 it says just the angel's arms/legs had the appearance/color like polish brass/copper. https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/dan/10/6/t_conc_860006

the word here for copper is NOT nachash but instead nekhosheth in dan10:6. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h5178/kjv/wlc/0-1/ which means like less noble less pure metal "copper, hence, something made of that metal, i.e. coin, a fetter; figuratively, base (as compared with gold or silver):—brasen, brass, chain, copper, fetter (of brass), filthiness, steel."

nekhosheth (h5178) is from a root word of nekh-oo-shaw (H5154) (copper/bronze/steel/alloy) nekh-oo-shaw (H5154) is from a root word naw-khoosh (h5153) (red, metal, ball ringing, hard, brass, etc) naw-khoosh (h5153) is seemingly from or related to naw-khash (h5172) (practice of enchanting / divination - whisper and hissing they do during those evil practices)

then serpent in gen3:1 is naw-khawsh (h5175) (serpent) https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/gen/3/1/t_conc_3001 serpent naw-khawsh (h5175) is from the root word naw-khash (h5172) (practice of enchanting / divination - whisper and hissing they do during those evil practices)

So if you follow dan10:6 the color/appearance of the angels arms 3 root words chaining down you get hiss and if you follow the serpent 1 root word you also get hiss.

to me trying to say the serpent was a shining being from that is way way to far of stretch.

plus you have the whole of the rest of the bible and the new testament (greek) to clearly say it is a serpent. No doubt the devil used the body of the serpent to tempt. We don't know how a serpent looked before it was changed. It was the most subtle creature of the field, but I don't see anyway to say it was shining. But maybe hissing/whispering/enchanting makes more sense.

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